Gaming buddy WillB needs constant focusing on a project lest he wander off and paint civilians or some such…LOL… see his blog at : link for his wonderful ‘diversions’
Sooo, I said I would create a suitable opposition to his illustrious Canadians fighting in Sicily during 1943. Interested in his campaign efforts I found a Too Fat Lardy “codex” for the Italians of that campaign. It mentions ‘coastal’ and’Blackshirt’ units. Hmm, as I don’t have Italian figures, what do the Blackshirts look like? A bit of image viewing prompted me to start on these rather poorly rated soldiers. I only had plastic American GI torsos available - a gift of bits from KevinA who had rather hacked these at the waist. Obviously these boys need to be in trenches to hide the rather distressing fact they had no legs. Arms literally (!) had to searched for in my bits box found from such varied sources as US, Zulu, Napoleonic and 18th century…. But the real prompt was the Blackshirt use of the black fez with tassel. I have a box of plastic Zouaves from which I could take the fez and still leaving a turbaned version for their use. Bonus.
|Italian Blackshirt soldier|
That was Sunday of last week. So, still working full time and all the other distraction of life, I had a rushed time frame. The scraping, manipulation, gluing and painting of the plastic was done, trenches quickly built, barbed wire areas speedily created. I knew I could use the maximum number of the latter allowed in the rules as the poor Blackshirts had a minimum of an extra +8 support points (!) to be taken in the required entrenchments and these new barbed wire emplacements. In the Chain of Command rules, the attacker rolls for support points and the defender gets half of these with the difference in strengths added. Between WillB and myself, poor dice rolling seems to be the norm so I got only one more point which was not enough for the sniper I had available. Nevertheless, the barbed wire did prove very useful to funnel Will’s attack toward my ‘killing ground’ in front of my trenches. But I get ahead of myself.
All this preparation was kept from Will as I wanted to to surprise him militarily with this unknown enemy. The scenario had a translator provide this information taken from a villager to his colonel:
“ The shirts of black infest our (town) with sharp string and holes of ferrets.”
We gave no real concept to the terrain and simply put pieces down with only a bit of thought to position and function. Will started with a farm house in a stone walled courtyard but ended up placing all but the largest of his buildings. I think it was so he could place his colourful new Sicilian civilians about on the table. (grin). That was fine as my backstory to the Blackshirts rather poor position outside the village was that they THOUGHT they were getting support from the local German garrison but these had been order away without informing the Italians! The civilians were thus ‘in the streets’ celebrating their departure. Nevertheless, Will’s orders are to take the crossroads at the town. My Blackshirts’ duty was to stop them.
The patrol phase of Chain of Command is interesting and a bit tricky as, if played wrong, could limit your deployment choices and we are both rather inexperienced with the rules. I had the added problem that, with the necessity of being in entrenchments, my forces would not desire to deploy behind walls or such. I still didn't want to give too much away to spoil the surprise for Will.
My Blackshirts would end up in a bottom of a slight depression between two ridges in farm land to await the Canadians appearing on the rise in front of them. Will used his support points in a pre-game barrage which would have me roll of units if units would indeed arrive and me, more often that not, failing to bring in my leaders or units until turns later.
|My rather ad-hoc Blackshirt contingent.|
Green troops in the rules really suffer (rightfully) with less command dice, shorter jump-off ranges and can suffer greater casualties. We started calling them "kermits" as in Kermit the Frog with his "It's not easy being green" phrase....
WillB avoided the barbed wire and a direct assault on the village and so was forced to attack frontally but helped by the hillock between my entrenchments and his line of attack - again, a result of the patrol/deployment part of the rules. The hillock also blocks line of sight for his supporting troops and his favourite tactic of laying smoke, lots of smoke, suffered from accuracy and so did not get the perfect effect he hoped to achieve. But while only somewhat limiting the fire from my entrenched Italians, it did stay around. Smoke only dissipates on the end of ‘a turn’ and for three successive games now, neither of us, let alone me, has rolled the required three sixes to do so, with the result that we only play “one turn” a game and the hiding smoke remains.
|WillB likes his smoke rounds but without line of sight they sometime even land on his troops!|
|Will's Canadians engage in hand-to-hand with my Italians|
|The final Canadian assault|
However, mounting casualties from Italian fire and the dropping sun had him do risky frontal charges, which while costly, did force the Italians from their trenches and have them vanish into the countryside. The Italian Force Morale was close to zero, all the leaders dead or wounded and only one command remained - my only recently deployed unit - I could do little to change the outcome.
The crossroads would be taken.
Don’t know how much use my new Blackshirts will be in any future games, but it was a inexpensive (read: nil cost!) and rather short timeframe foray into WW2 Sicily.
You can read Will's blog here for his version of this 'battle'.